Poll: Almost One in Four Americans Open to Separating from U.S.

CAlthough Scotland’s movement to secede from the United Kingdom fell a bit short at the ballot box, it appears it’s not just 45% of Scots who have separation on their minds.

And frankly, it’s no secret most Americans aren’t enthusiastic about the federal government these days. Between gridlock, behemoth budgets and trying to solve the health care puzzle, many have grown frustrated. Poll results explained in this Reuters article, however, are still a bit alarming.

Whoever takes the White House in 2016 may have his/her hands full in trying to unify the country. 

Does Wisconsin Illustrate Fading Role of Unions?

Wisconsin public sector unions don’t like the rules that emerged from a legislative battle earlier this year. As a result, many failed to file for recertification. A professor and former legislator terms it: "Welcome to the future Wisconsin." Stateline reports:

Major unions in Wisconsin have opted to allow their official collective bargaining status to lapse rather than file for “recertification” under controversial new rules enacted earlier this year.

The decision raises serious questions about the relevance of state workers’ unions in Wisconsin politics and governance. Wisconsin has long been a union stronghold — and was in fact the first state to require collective bargaining for state workers. That changed when Republican Governor Scott Walker and the state legislature re-wrote bargaining rules, triggering protests that captured national attention for weeks.

The new law allows unions to retain official collective bargaining status if they undergo an annual vote of represented workers to determine that they still want the union to represent them in formal talks with the state. That’s a high hurdle. For one thing, holding an annual election is an expensive proposition for a union. And in order to prevail, unions must receive votes from a majority of represented workers, not just a majority of the votes cast.

The deadline to recertify passed last week. While some small unions filed paperwork, unions representing the majority of state workers allowed the deadline to pass without filing with the state as required by the new law.

“I think the passing of the deadline was a major moment and now we can say, ‘Welcome to the future Wisconsin,’” Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and former state legislator, told Reuters.

The decision not to subject themselves to the recertification process indicates that unions are betting that, under the new rules of the game, the costs of collective bargaining may outweigh the benefits. Those unions that do successfully pass the recertification test will only be able to negotiate over salary increases to keep pace with inflation — they can’t negotiate over not workplace conditions, benefits or more significant salary bumps, as they could before. At the same time, the resources available to state unions have diminished because unions are no longer allowed to take automatic deductions from represented workers’ paychecks. All contributions are voluntary.

The Associated Press reports that while union leaders have refused to say how many members are voluntarily continuing to pay dues, layoffs of union staff have already begun. The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the statewide teachers union, has laid off 42 people — 40 percent of its staff.

“Mooooooom, Grandma Won’t Get Off the Computer!”

A survey from the AARP shows further evidence that what you thought you knew about social networking might be wrong. While much has been made about how pervasive middle-aged Americans are on Facebook and Twitter, it seems 50-64 year-olds are also "LOLing" and "OMGing"  with each other on the fabulous Interwebs.  Reuters Life! reports:

Social networking isn’t only for the under 40s. More than 25 percent of Americans 50 years and older stay connected using sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, according to new research.

And nearly half of older adults, aged 50 to 64, say they are savvy about the Internet.

"The latest data tells us that more and more, social networking is becoming a part of everyday life for Americans 50 plus, and boomers in particular," said Kevin Donnellan, the chief communications officer at AARP, which released the report.

The powerful lobbying group for older Americans said Facebook is by far the most popular networking site, followed by MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Nearly a quarter of older Americans are on Facebook and 73 percent said they use it to stay in touch with relatives, but not just their children and grandchildren.

Make Sure You’re Connected

Reuters Life! takes a look at the growing use of social networking. While the growth is not surprising — the rate of growth might be. Nearly doubling over the past year? Wow:

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Spending more time on social networks and blogs? You’re not alone, with the latest figures showing the number of minutes spent on social networking sites in the United States has almost doubled over the past year.

Nielsen Online, which measures web traffic, said the number of minutes on social networks in the United States rose 83 percent in April from the same month a year ago, but found users were quick to move on and sites could quickly fall from favor.

Nielsen Online spokesman Jon Gibs said a major trend had been the continuing popularity of Facebook, which has more than 200 million active members and has become so mainstream it now hosts Pope Benedict and a list of world leaders.

The total number of minutes spent on Facebook surged 700 percent year-on-year to 13.9 billion in April this year from 1.7 billion a year ago, making it the No. 1 social networking site for the fourth consecutive month.

News Corp’s MySpace was second most popular but the number of minutes spent on this site fell 31 percent to 4.97 billion from 7.3 billion a year ago, although it remained the top social networking site when ranked by video streams.

Blogger, Tagged.com and Twitter.com came third, fourth and fifth respectively, with the number of minutes spent on Twitter — that lets people send 140-character messages or Tweets — rocketing 3,712 percent in April from a year ago.

Hat tip to the Chamber’s Tim Brewer for the link.

Russia/Georgia Battle Shows Value of PR

If your communications team has gone round and round about your public relations initiatives, this article by Reuters UK might give you some insight into how valuable messaging can be in the midst of crisis. This piece explains how Russia and Georgia are fighting not just with weapons, but with PR strategies:

Russia wants to convince the world of its role as an honest broker, reluctantly intervening against an out-of-control Georgian president whose forces have carried out ethnic cleansing against the Ossetian people.

 Georgia in turn portrays itself as a plucky little country fighting off the resurgent Russian bear and suffering unfair Kremlin punishment on account of its drive to become a Western democracy and NATO ally.